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Legal insights & industry updates

| 2 minutes read

Adoption Week Scotland: Why do step-parents choose to adopt?

Adoption Week 2023 is well underway in Scotland, with many events taking place across the country, and indeed the United Kingdom, highlighting the adoption process and the resources and support available to those wishing to adopt.

At Harper Macleod, our modern families team has an in-depth knowledge of the adoption process and the law that regulates it. Our Head of Department, Amanda Masson, sets out in detail what the adoption process entails here.

According to statistics* from the National Records for Scotland (NRS), in 2022, single male or female adoptions accounted for 153 of 370 adoption applications. This accounts for around 41% of all adoption applications that year. Of those, around 31% were single male applicants and 10% were female applicants. The data from NRS records that the vast majority of those single male or female applications were in relation to step-parent adoption applications. NRS figures show that step-parent adoptions significantly increase when a child is aged between 5-18yrs, when compared to younger children. In contrast, adoption applications from those who have no relation to a child tend to be made in relation to children who are much younger in age.

There is undoubtedly a growing trend in step-parent adoption. Between 2002 and 2022, NRS records show that the average number of step-parent adoptions is approximately 37 per year. Figures from 2017 to 2022 show that step-parent adoptions are consistently above the average trend in each year.

So what are the benefits of step-parent adoption?

Step-parents do not automatically acquire Parental Responsibilities and Rights when marrying the parent of the child. Therefore, if you and your partner break up, you will have no automatic rights to see the child or contribute to decisions about their upbringing. Similarly, if you pass away without making a Will, your child cannot automatically inherit (and vice versa).

The practical benefits are that all children in the family will have the same inheritance rights. They will also have the same legal security in the event of their parents separating; in so far as continuing to receive care, direction and guidance from both parents.

Arguably, the most important benefit is the love, security and sense of belonging that both the step-parent and stepchild gain from formalising their relationship. Further, in the event of a divorce, the stepparent continues to have all of the rights of a biological parent allowing them to make major decisions for the child’s health, development and wellbeing, as well as ensuring that they enjoy an ongoing relationship with them and to see them regularly if they no longer live in the same household.

Additionally, a step-parent adoption provides security and permanence while also solidifying a sense of belonging for the stepchild. This is very significant to a child, especially if the child is in a blended family and the family members and the child’s siblings all share a different last name from the child.   A key benefit of a step-parent adoption is that the child’s legal name may be changed to match his or her family’s name, which legally and psychologically impresses the permanence and inclusion of the family unit. Moreover, the child’s birth certificate will be changed as part of the process to reflect the name of the step-parent as the child’s legal parent, further cementing the connection between the child and parent. After the adoption, the stepchild’s status is equal to any biological children.

*Statistics published by NRS - 


family law